I’ve been meditating on and off for many years. It’s only over the past couple of years that I’ve developed a regular practice.
The truth is, meditating every day is REALLY hard.
It’s hard for a couple of reasons.
One is, life has a habit of getting in the way, and meditation time is the easy thing to put aside and do later. Or think, ‘I’ll do a double practice tomorrow’.
But then it doesn’t happen.
And there are no tangible consequences for most people. And then the daily practice becomes every second day, then weekly, and then is just forgotten.
Another reason that meditation is hard, is that (and please don’t judge me!) it can be boring…there, I said it.
Sitting and doing nothing, thinking nothing and continually reigning in your thoughts can be tiring, and frankly, at times just frustrating.
There are different types of meditation, and some of these are quite uplifting, such as the more yogic ones that involve chanting, mantras and music. This year, I’ve been practicing Zen meditation, which is described by my teacher as ‘no frills meditation’. She means that there’s no music, no mindfulness, nothing at all actually.
That’s right, I sit completely still for 30 minutes a day and spend the entire time trying to think about nothing.
Do you know how hard this is?? Thinking about nothing can be excruciating.
The thing is, the more you do it, the easier it becomes, and the benefits become clearer. But in the beginning, it can be a real challenge.
I’m journalling my meditation sessions this year as part of my formal meditation teacher training, which is helping me enormously as this appeals to my competitive nature. I don’t want to be the student that doesn’t have a completed journal to upload at the end of each month.
Oh dear…should that REALLY be my motivation?? Trust me, it’s all good. No judgement here!
The fact is, the benefits of meditation are measured only in regular practitioners. Just meditating when you feel like it hasn’t been shown to provide the benefits of regular meditation such as preserving grey matter in the brain, stress reduction, improved sleep, decreased fatigue and improvement in depression symptoms (to name a few).
If you want to find ways to have a regular practice, then here are some tips from me, someone who’s tried over many years to find a regular practice, and currently I’m succeeding 🙂
- Find a time of day that works for you. I often find that if I skip my morning session thinking that I’ll just do it later in the day, the day gets away from me and my meditation time gets lost. Generally early in the morning or just before bed are good times, but whatever time is good for you, lock it in and commit to it.
- Think outside the box for how and where you can fit in your meditation time. I know of people who meditate on their commute in the bus/train. They just pop in their earphones in with a timer on and it’s perfect for them. Where do you have 10-15 minutes in your day that you are doing nothing much?
- Find a comfortable seat. There is no need to sit in lotus position on the floor in front of an altar! Sit in a comfortable chair, or on a cushion on the floor, or out in the garden, wherever you like really. The preferred position is sitting rather than lying, purely so that you don’t fall asleep. There’s no need to sit cross legged if that’s going to make you uncomfortable and distract you. Seriously.
- Start with small goals. Just 5 minutes per day is a great way to condition yourself to sitting and stilling the mind. Increase your meditation time by 5 minutes a week and you’ll be at 30 minutes daily in just 6 weeks! And if you’ve only got 15 minutes a day to practice then commit to that – it’s all good.
- Use an app to help you focus. There’s a free Australian app called Smiling Mind which is really simple to use and is great for first time meditators. There are many other apps that can also help – have a look around and find one that suits your style.
Be realistic in your expectations. When I first started meditating years ago, I thought that it would be a magical experience, that I would be virtually levitating and having amazing breakthroughs of thought in my mind. I’ve learned this is not what meditation is all about. It’s seriously just about doing nothing and thinking nothing.